(The Center Square) – Prosecutors from across Illinois on Friday urged the state’s highest court to affirm a Kankakee County judge’s ruling that a no-cash bail law that was set to take effect at the beginning of the year is unconstitutional.
The state’s attorneys filed their response with the Illinois Supreme Court to the Pritzker administration’s appeal of the lower court judge’s ruling.
Last month, Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul argued that abolishing cash bail does not violate the state’s constitution and arguments to the contrary are “flawed.”
The Safety, Accountability, Fairness and Equity-Today Act, also known as the SAFE-T Act, was approved in the final hours of the 101st General Assembly in January 2021.
The measure brought sweeping changes to the state’s criminal justice system, including new regulations on police.
The law enforcement community criticized the measure as not including police in conversations and local prosecutors criticized the Pretrial Fairness Act portion of the bill as being dangerous for public safety by not allowing courts to hold violent offenders behind bars before their case is adjudicated.
Despite final changes to the measure being approved in the fall veto session last year that created a net of offenses a criminal defendant can be held pre-trial, dozens of state’s attorneys from around Illinois pursued their lawsuit to block the law’s implementation.
Just days before the law was to be implemented, a Kankakee County judge declared the law unconstitutional.
On New Year’s Eve, the Illinois Supreme Court halted the measure pending an appeal from the AG.
State Rep. Patrick Windhorst, R-Harrisburg, recently said the measure was flawed from the beginning.
“In the time since it passed in January of 2021, House Democrats have passed four trailer bills aimed at fixing the flawed law,” Windhorst said at a news conference Tuesday in Springfield.
“[Gov. J.B. Pritzker] signed three of those trailer bills into law. The reason for the bills was simple, the law was rushed through a process that resulted in a flawed product.”
While the courts deal with the question, Windhorst said lawmakers should be working on real solutions.
“While we await a final decision on the full implementation of the … Pretrial Fairness Act portion of the SAFE-T Act, legislators should be working together to bring forth a constitutional solution aimed at improving our justice system and improving public safety,” Windhorst said.
The state’s reply brief is due by February 27.
The Illinois Supreme Court hears the case sometime in March. A ruling is not expected for months.